urban shrinkage // local groups // fieldwork // urban transformation // events // exchange

During a 2-week workshop in the shrinking town of Cesis, Latvia, as the unit of non-architects tutored by anthropologist Maris Pombergs, we assumed a social-scientific approach to issues traditionally tackled by architects and urban planners. Through semi-structured interviews and observation we explored the local context and researched a number of socially and culturally active local groups. We identified their needs and the missing links and potentials for future collaboration.

We proposed an Open House vision for the building of a local secondary school, based on the concept of exchange: a shared space that would facilitate the interchange of knowledge, resources and information and encourage a much needed collaboration and points of interaction. Ideally, it will serve as a spatial and informational platform for the organisations that are already established in Cesis and encourage new initiatives to spring up.

To test the concept we organized a one-day exchange of used goods in the school building, thus underlying both the social value of bartering (exchange) and its sustainability aspect in our modern throwaway society. The event was about the exchange of material objects (clothes, books, furniture, household appliances), but more importantly to nurture a sense of possibilities for the exchange of ideas, opinions, knowledge, and skills. Hopefully, this short-term intervention encouraged some local residents to take up a more active role in the process of creating public policy and helped them realize that their urban environment is something they can shape and influence.

Mainitava was part of the summer school Event City organized by Riga Technical University. Workshops were accompanied by lectures in architecture, urban design, art in public space, and event design and concluded with a public presentation and open discussion of the final results.

Photos by Kaspars Kursiss
Drawing by Mihkel Reha
Graphic by Ansis Paeglitis & Guna Zommere